Massage Therapy: Learning To Communicate With Clients

Massage Therapy: Learning To Communicate With Clients


When dealing with clients in any industry, it’s essential to have communication skills that go beyond ‘meet and greet’, as relationships are made in the early stages that can have a positive or negative effect on not just the person you’re helping today, but also the friends and family they may refer to you.

What kinds of communication are there in massage therapy?

Professional Massage Therapists communicate in a variety of ways with clients throughout the consultation process. They can use verbal and auditory (listening) communication with clients wherever possible during the initial client interview, as well as throughout the massage assessment and treatment process.

Visual communication is also used through all parts of the massage therapy process, as well as kinaesthetic (touch-based) communication. The actual massage techniques are a way of communicating with the client’s body.

Compared to our visual and auditory systems, which most people would use as their main basis for communication, our kinaesthetic system transmits information much, much faster. Our nervous system really is wired to ‘learn by doing’.

What is the right way to facilitate treatment?

Professional Massage Therapists take pride in the way they approach and facilitate treatment. Treatment happens only after a screening and assessment process to determine the client’s suitability for treatment, so the therapist can determine the most appropriate treatment for the individual.

The therapist will then explain their recommendations to the client and negotiate a treatment plan which the client is comfortable with. Usually with new clients who might feel a little nervous or self-conscious about treatment, the therapist will work with them to reassure them and will only proceed with treatment at a pace the client is comfortable with.

Massages Customised For Clients

All clients have the option of requesting a change to their treatment plan at any stage if they are not feeling comfortable with what has been negotiated. Communication skills are an important part of facilitating a treatment – for example, most clients will respond positively if a therapist explains to them the benefit of receiving massage to an area of their body they had not considered, such as the abdomen or pectoral (upper chest) region.

Is there a screening process before the treatment?

There is a definite screening process that occurs before a massage treatment. All massage students undertaking nationally recognised training, such as Certificate or Diploma studies, receive training in client assessment and screening, which consists of recording information about a client’s medical history and any current complaint, and then gathering information from observation of posture and palpation (touching) of specific muscle.

Remedial Massage Therapists (Diploma or higher) receive additional training in relation to determining how individual joints are moving (called a Range-of-Motion Assessment) and performing specific Specials Tests, which might involve moving a particular body part in a specific way so the therapist can assess whether a particular tissue is contributing to a client’s presenting condition.

In some instances, these tests will allow a Therapist to decide whether a client would benefit from more specific treatment, such as physiotherapy. Other tests help a Therapist decide what soft tissues to treat in order to make the treatment as effective as possible.

How does a Massage Therapist respond to a client that’s not describing their concerns well?

A Massage Therapist would use more specific questions in order to gather the appropriate information from a client. If a client appeared to be having difficulties answering these questions, the Therapist might use closed-ended questions (ones that are answered with a Yes or No) to gather the appropriate information.

What happens if there is a language/cultural barrier between the client and Massage Therapist?

If there is a language barrier between the Therapist and the client, the Massage Therapist might be able to use body charts and screening tools such as Visual Analogue Scales (VAS) so a client can indicate where the pain is and how much pain they are experiencing.

In some cases, Therapists may advise a client to bring along a friend or relative who could translate for them if the communication barrier is too great. As a last resort, Therapists could refer the individual to a Therapist who speaks the same language.

What are some of the best ways they can show that the trust won’t be broken?

Massage Therapists are given very specific training in relation to professional boundaries and ethics. The best ways in which Massage Therapists can demonstrate these boundaries with clients and ensure their trust won’t be broken are to ensure adherence to the standards of professional practice or a Code of Ethics, which might include:

  • Consistent Infection Control and Hygiene Standards
  • Going through an Informed Consent process with clients
  • Ensuring appropriate draping standards are used throughout the massage
  • Adhering to the Advertising standards required for massage therapists
  • Maintaining client information in a confidential and secure manner
  • Being a member of a Professional Association
  • Maintaining Continuing Professional Education on an annual basis.

There are actually lots and lots of different components to this and it is part of the training for all Massage Therapists.

Most of the ways in which trust is established and maintained relate to a client’s impression of the way a Massage Therapist performs the role, both professionally and personally.

Massage Therapists are encouraged to engage in a process called Self-Reflection on a regular basis which means thinking about the reasons behind their words and actions and questioning their own motivations to ensure the integrity of the therapeutic relationship – that everything that happens in the context of the therapist – client happens for the benefit of the client.

What does VFA Learning provide Massage Therapy students?

VFA Learning provides students with a supportive, nurturing environment in which to learn about massage therapy (or other disciplines such as fitness, outdoor recreation or childcare). All of our presenters are highly experienced, friendly and approachable, who love teaching and sharing their experiences with students.

Our campuses have modern facilities with computer labs and Simulated Workplaces (a classroom-based massage clinic or gymnasium) in order to ensure students can integrate the theoretical and practical knowledge from their course, so they can develop their employability and industry skills.